This is Step 9 of our 11-step HostGator Home Business Guide. At this point, you’ve developed your first basic product, or you’re working on it. You’ve put together your marketing toolbox, which includes social media accounts, your business website, a professional email address, and the results of your social media listening. Here’s how to use them to establish your brand and connect your audience to your product.
1. Social media best practices for home-based businesses
When you put together your marketing toolkit, you found the social media platforms that your ideal customers us, set up business accounts on those platforms, and studied their tutorials for business users. (You can review the marketing toolbox steps here.) Each platform is a bit different, but some practices work well across all of them:
Post regularly. You don’t need a constant volley of posts, but regular posts keep your business visible and show that it’s active and engaged. Abandoned social media accounts can undermine customer trust in your brand.
Share useful information. Your ideal customers need and want certain things, and you can earn their trust by posting information that helps them out. It doesn’t have to be–and shouldn’t always be–your own company’s products or services. You can share other people’s how-to articles, video tutorials, inspirational pins, and interviews. When you do share your own products and insights, focus on building trust and connections first, and making the sale may follow.
Promote wisely. Social media is great for announcing flash sales, sharing coupon codes, and other deals. Be sure your language is clear so there’s no potential for customers to misunderstand your offer, and stick to your offer deadlines, even if no one bites the first couple of times. It’s tempting to extend deadlines, but that trains your audience to ignore them, which can reduce responses to your offers.
Track your results. Some posts may get lots of shares and clicks, while others get few or none. Study what does well and steer more of your posts in that direction.
Invite followers to visit your site. An easy way is to promote a blog post or lively comments discussion. Don’t have a blog yet? We’re about to fix that.
2. Starting your own small business blog
A blog is a necessary marketing tool, and it’s easy to start a blog on your business website. Keeping your blog updated with fresh and relevant content that helps your business rank well in search results is a the real challenge, but you can do it. Here are the basics.
Make a list of topics your target audience talks about, especially problems your business can solve for them. Maybe they can’t find locally made food gift baskets. Maybe they want to customize their lawn-care services each week via a smartphone app. Whatever it is they’re talking about that relates to your business, you’ll want to talk about it on your blog.
Build a content calendar. Just as you want to post social media updates regularly, do the same with your blog. A regular deadline will help you focus and keep your business fresh in the minds of readers.
Use the keywords your customers search for to find businesses like yours. Don’t beat the copy to death with the same keywords over and over, but do include important phrases like, say, “bulk order temporary tattoos” or “healthy school lunch delivery” or whatever it is you’re trying to rank well for in search results.
Write simply. Write as if you’re talking to a good friend or customer and you’ll connect with your readers. If the act of writing ties you up in knots, dictate your posts to your phone or PC and then transcribe them.
Promote your blog posts on your social media accounts. Be sure to include images (your own or stock photos) to increase click-through and read rates.
Track your results. Regularly review traffic stats for your posts, such as unique visitors, time on the page, where they’re coming from, what search terms they used, and the number of comments per post.
Invite your blog readers to join your email list so they’ll always know when you publish something new. That brings us to…
3. Email marketing for small business owners
Your email list is a valuable asset, because it’s all the people who have bought from you, who are interested in what you have to say, or want to know what you will offer them next. In other words, these folks have already said yes to your business, to some degree. They may not buy everything you offer and they may not read every email you send, but they’re open to hearing from you.
Email regularly. Don’t bombard your list members, but don’t let them forget about you, either. I’ve heard from email newsletter experts that once a month is the minimum for keeping yourself in customers’ minds. That’s plenty for a new business owner who already has lots to do.
Write great subject lines. Treat them like headlines and make them short enough to display in the preview window.
Say something useful. Share insights, promote products and offers, and answer frequently asked questions. You can also promote specific blog posts or social media discussions that are going strong. Another popular option is to include a case study or testimonial from a satisfied customer.
Track your results. Free-to-low-cost tools like Constant Contact show you how well each campaign performs. See how many recipients opened your email and clicked on links within your email. Use what works in your next message and drop the things that don’t work.
4. Influencer marketing for small business
With social media, a blog, and an email marketing program in place, you’re ready to start courting influencers. You probably know from experience that people are more likely to buy from businesses that friends and family recommend. Influencer marketing is a similar way to generate word of mouth from experts and high-profile people in your field.
Businesses of any size can engage in influencer marketing, although you should calibrate your expectations to your business size and scope. Shayla Price explains how to identify, contact, and work with influencers in this detailed post. When you do run an influencer campaign, track your results to see how well it worked and to get ideas for making your next influencer campaign even more effective.
Just two more steps to go. Our next post will delve into developing new products based on feedback from your customers, how and when to market new lines to existing customers, and how to reach new customers as your product offerings grow.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.